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Wounded soldiers learn to surf at Seal Beach

November 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Injured soldiers home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning to the powers of the local surf. They're active duty personnel, some with lifelong injuries. They're teaming up with volunteers to ride the waves and heal some wounds.

Army Staff Sgt. Chad DeSerrano learned the basics before heading into the waters off Seal Beach. He was among 80 soldiers who surfed and paddleboarded for the first time Wednesday.

"Smiles, enthusiasm and appreciation just to be out here in the water," said DeSeranno.

U.S. soldiers from California and Nevada recovering from injuries suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan got a workout and learned a new sport, part of the Wounded Warriors program.

"It really keeps your mind off the other stuff," said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Cornelius.

Cornelius was injured a year ago in Iraq.

"I have a shattered fibia and tibia: Came through a building, building came down on top of me and shattered my bones," said Cornelius.

The soldiers were invited to Seal Beach by locals donating their time.

"I'm a professional surfer, so for me to be able to share my passion with surfing and just put a big smile on their face, that's the best reward," said instructor Rocky McKinnon.

More than 30 volunteers, surfers and paddleboarders from Malibu to Dana Point, were at Seal Beach to help teach.

After a number of tries, by mid-morning the soldiers showed progress, and in some cases surprised themselves with what they can do.

"Unbelievable. I love it. It was fun," said Cornelius.

"It's exhilarating. It's awesome. It's a great thing," said DeSeranno.

A day to try something new, riding the waves to help heal.

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